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Hand Made Guitars by Luthier Dan Koentopp

Saddle Up!!

I’ve always been partial to a tailpiece that wraps and suspends over the body by means of a tailpiece wire. This allows the tailpiece to vibrate freely and become an integral part of the guitar “system” (The longer discussion of tailpiece designs is for another article!) This blog entry focuses on the tailpiece saddle; the piece of material that sits at the butt of the guitar and lifts the tailpiece wire up and over the edge so that the tailpiece can clear the top of the guitar, set the string angle and also protect the edge of the guitar so the wires doesn’t dig in and do damage. On my very early guitars I used a tradition string instrument designed saddle and quickly found out that there was not enough glue surface to handle the torque of the string pull. On a violin or cello where the string pull is much less, that saddle design is a perfect solution and when they fail, a new one can simply be fit and replaced (hence the name “fittings” in the string instrument world) On a guitar, we don’t want things to fall apart and we want to avoid things that will need work down the road. I evolved to a design that was a larger circle plug made from solid ebony and aligned the end-grain vertically, giving the tailpiece wire as much hardness as I could. Over the years I thought about how could I make this stronger while not loosing the beautiful look of wood. I made a brass saddle but all that metal was not a look I wanted. However, that solid brass saddle led to this one: a brass plug that is milled out with a pocket that is then inlaid with ebony. The small ring of brass, as seen from the side, elevates the elegance of the wood and delicately frames it so beautifully. The majority of the brass material is on the front side of the plug (on the inside) where the leading edge of the saddle is taking most of the force of the tailpiece wire.


Milled out brass saddle plugs


Pocket Inlaid with Ebony


Profiled to meet scoop; brass is slightly more than half the total thickness

Roughly profiled and left quite high to be dialed in during final setup


Guitar in my cradle arm fixture getting the plug pocket routed in.


Guitar ready to get saddle epoxied in


Saddle installed and scraped clean

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